MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Professor Luckson Kasonka says Honeybee is a “non-starter” and the Ministry will not pay anything because the contract was cancelled.

Honeybee Pharmacy Limited’s lawyer Tutwa Ngulube recently asked government to honour its obligation to pay Honeybee US$4 million for the products which were consumed.

But in an interview, Prof Kasonka described Ngulube’s remarks as an illusion, saying he actually wanted to find out if any money had been paid to Honeybee so that it could be retrieved.

“I don’t even know who the owner of Honeybee is. I have asked, can I see who the owner is, nobody presents themselves that I am the owner of Honeybee. But except I hear you are telling me that Tutwa Ngulube is the lawyer, that is how discreet the Honeybee scandal was. And the tragedy is that US$ 13 million has been quoted somewhere in public media, and we don’t even know whether any part of that was paid. The fear is that a substantial amount of money has been paid for wrong products. So, what Ngulube is talking about is his own illusions and imaginations,” Prof Kasonka said.

“It is the court that will have to determine whether any amount of money has to be paid or not because the case is in court. But as far as ZAMRA is concerned, Honeybee is a non-starter, that contract has been cancelled and as Ministry of Health, we are not going to pay nothing. In fact, what I want to find out is whether anything at all has been paid so that I retrieve what has been paid because it is a scandal.”

He said ever since the new administration got into power, no one had presented themselves to the ministry as the owner of the company.

“ZAMRA has tested those products and they failed the ZAMRA tests according to ZAMRA performance standards. ZAMRA has the authority to declare any product coming into the country sub-standard or not meeting the requirements and accordingly advise against consumption. On the basis of ZAMRA’s recommendations, we cancelled the contract. And that contract is never going to re-open again. But we have to know how much government money has been paid by our predecessors. So, Tutwa Ngulube should go and argue in court as to what needs to be paid. I have tried to find out, can someone who owns Honeybee come, no one has come to the Ministry of Health at least during our time. Maybe they used to come before we were there, before changing the administration but everyone has disowned Honeybee, they have refused to be associated with it among those who owned Honeybee,” said Prof Kasonka.

And when contacted for a comment on Ngulube’s remarks on Honeybee condoms, Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) executive director Manuel Mutale referred this reporter to the briefing which was held in February last year in which he said that ZABS tested 315 pieces of the Honeybee-supplied condoms for holes and water leakages, and another 315 for determination of bursting, volume and pressure, contrary to assertions that only one condom was tested from the consignment.

“We are a science institution so we cannot start commenting on these issues. Our position still remains, what we clarified to you people. We gave you our position. And like I said earlier on, we don’t discuss clients’ issues because we are just a sub-contracted lab. We don’t discuss clients’ issues in the press. But for us, we are science driven, and we stand by our findings. You were part of the briefing that we gave. Historically, you should go into your archives, we stand by whatever we gave you when you came to ZABS, that is what we stand by,” said Mutale.

Ngulube recently said people wanted to throw mud at Honeybee when they were actually innocent, as no one could claim to have suffered any consequences as a result of using their drugs.

“We have seen that people have not stopped attacking Honeybee, telling lies about their goods. We challenged them last time to say bring us one person who will confirm to say that I used a Honeybee condom that was leaking, they have failed. Even that same Panadol, that they are saying Honeybee supplied is not okay…when I supply drugs to you and you don’t store the drugs properly, do you wake up and say ‘Tutwa Ngulube supplied us defective drugs’? People want to mud sling Honeybee, people want to throw mud at them but the truth of the matter is Honeybee is innocent. Government owes Honeybee US$4 million for all the medical supplies. They are just talking about Panadol, they have forgotten about everything else supplied. The investigations that were launched in the matter showed that Honeybee products were compliant,” said Ngulube.